Barber’s Business

Damon Runyon

DEAR SIR the other night my wife Ethel ses Joe, I wish you would take me to the movies tonight, and I ses why sweets it will be a pleasure if you will let me drop in at Sam the Barber’s on the way there and get a quick haircut.

I ses I have not had a haircut so long I am commencing to look like an old English sheepdog and Ethel ses I have never seen an old English sheepdog, Joe. What do they look like? I ses they look like I am commencing to look and she ses Oh, well, I will be glad to have you stop at Sam’s then although you know how I hate to wait for you in the barber’s because there is never anybody there but men.

So that is where we went and Sam found an evening paper with the funnies in it for Ethel while he was cutting my hair but before Sam got through with me she had finished with the paper and was watching us and she ses Sam you hurry up with Joe because we don’t want to be late for the movies.

Sam ses I am practically all done now Missus Turp, and then he held a big hand mirror up behind me so it showed the back of my head in the mirror in front of me and ses how is that Joe? I ses that’s fine Sam and Ethel ses Joe why does the barber always hold a mirror up that way when he gets through cutting your hair?

I ses why, Ethel, I guess the idea is for me to see how the haircut looks in the back of my head and Sam ses sure thing, Missus Turp, that is the idea. I do that for every customer that gets a haircut so he can see if he likes the way I have done it in the back. He could not see it back there unless I held the mirror up behind him.

Ethel ses yes, but suppose he did not like it. Suppose my Joe there ses Sam you haven’t cut my hair on the back of my head right, what could you do about it? Sam ses Joe never ses he don’t like it, Missus Turp. He always likes it, Ethel ses yes, but suppose someday he don’t. Could you put his hair back and start cutting it all over again?

Sam ses why, Missus Turp, don’t your hairdresser always let you see in a mirror how she is doing your hair? Ethel ses yes, but that is not the same thing. She doesn’t cut my hair off the way you do Joe’s and if I don’t like the way she has done it she can change it and I don’t think you can change hair you have cut off and left on the floor.

I ses look, sweets, I thought you was in a hurry to get to the movies and you are wasting time with this thing. Ethel ses well, Joe, there are two things I have always wanted to ask somebody about and one is why the barber always holds a mirror up behind a fellow’s head after he has cut off his hair and another is why the waiter in some restaurants always shows people the food in the dishes before he serves it.

Sam ses Missus Turp I don’t know anything about waiters but us barbers have always let a customer see the way we have cut his hair in back and nobody ever asked questions about it before, even suppose questions. Ethel ses well, suppose some fellow was disgusted with the way you cut his hair in the back and of course you couldn’t put it on him again and he got mad and slapped you or maybe sued you for damages for spoiling his hair?

Sam ses please, Missus Turp. That old gentleman waiting there is Mister McQuillan who owns the department store down town and he is too big a customer for me to stand here trying to answer supposes for you. I ses yes, Ethel, we are late now and she ses well all right, Joe, but why does everybody always get excited when somebody asks a few little old questions?

So we walked out of Sam’s and we had not gone very far when we heard somebody behind us going psst, psst, psst to attract our attention and it was old Mister McQuillan and when he caught up with us he ses to my wife Ethel, young lady, I have always wanted to ask that question myself about the barber and the mirror but have been afraid to. If ever you find the answer will you please let me know?

Yours truly